The National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility Act (S 2695) would allow the Department of Agriculture (DOA) to dictate the use of the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility to carry out activities relating to the defense of US agriculture and food as part of the US biodefense strategy. With the goal of defending against bio- and agroterrorism threats, the Facility would be used to conduct the research, development, and evaluation of defense infrastructure. As part of research and development, the DOA would improve the capability to asses threats and vulnerabilities and develop veterinary countermeasures against emerging zoonotic diseases. The DOA would focus research on pursuing these goals by:
- Integrating zoonotic disease and public health research;
- Addressing threats from pathogens and disease agents;
- Providing training consistent with carrying out the goals of the national biodefense strategy; and
- Sharing data with the Department of Homeland Security.
Finally, the DOA would update its research plan and evaluate the progress of the Biodefense Memorandum in a report to Congress every 6 months.
Zoonotic diseases come from animals and have the capability of infecting humans, potentially causing serious illness or death. Pathogens have been used for bioterrorism and can be extremely difficult to detect, making them a potential public health threat. Additionally, biological security threats can emerge incidentally from nature or by accidental release, like in the case of the highly infectious Ebola virus. The government’s push for biodefense is intended to improve the US’s ability to detect and respond to any threats and mitigate their effects.